Cabin Fever

I have cabin fever in a big way. Don’t get me wrong, I’m obviously extremely grateful for these weeks I’ve had with Gracelyn Rae as she has stolen my heart. The quality time with Jamie and even with my good dog Mo is not something I want to take for granted. But man I still want to get back to a routine.

I enjoy doing, going, living, acting. I don’t enjoy resting. Vacations are hard for me, as my mind runs forward to what’s after we get back. Days off are difficult for me, as I think through the to do list that looms over me when I’m back at work.

I’ve confessed on these blogs before my workaholic nature, and it certainly shows itself in my seeming inability at times to rest.

So, after two weeks of paternity leave followed by poor weather keeping me indoors, I think the Lord is trying to teach me something.

He’s wanting to teach me how to rest in Christ in a way that makes me productive for the Kingdom rather than burnt out all the time.

I think that our modern churches are full of people who like me struggle when it comes to finding rest. We scroll, scroll, scroll, and numb ourselves with tons of entertainment at our fingertips. We rest by spending hours of TikTok or Facebook, binge-watching Netflix, listening to tons of podcasts. And by keeping our minds ‘on’ all the time, we prevent ourselves from truly resting.

Jesus extends to us an invitation to allow our souls to find rest in Him. Jesus extends to us an invitation to turn off from the world and all its noise, to sit in His presence and enjoy the good things of this world for His glory and our good.

Nancy Guthrie puts it this way, when describing this theme in the storyline of Scripture:

Even in Eden, history was headed somewhere. It was headed toward an unending, all-satisfying rest in the presence of God.

From the beginning of human history, we have been invited into rest that is Christ-centered. We must fight back against the ways of this world we live in. We must take intentional action to renew ourselves in Scripture and in the ways of Jesus.

For me this week, it meant turning my phone off at 8 PM for a couple days. This seems so simple and easy yet it was difficult to do. When I did so though, my last hours awake were spent enjoying God, prayerfully meditating on His Word, enjoying the gifts that He has given me. The to do lists could wait. The work responsibilities could wait. In those hours, I had rest.

I don’t know what it may look like for you to learn to rest in Christ. I would encourage you to prayerfully consider ways that you can fight back against the indoctrination of our world, ways that you can set your mind on things above.

Trust me, the cabin fever is still real (in part because we were created for community). I still anticipate getting back out into routines and rhythms.

Yet in this week ahead, with a winter storm bearing down on us, I hope to rest in Christ.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Christian, Be Quiet

It was late in the Summer of 2017.

It was a Saturday afternoon, and I was hanging out at my apartment in Phoenix, AZ with my friend Matt and my then girlfriend, now wife, Jamie. I got a text that my dad needed to talk to me, so I stepped outside into the 112 degree heat and gave him a ring.

My dad informed me that my eighteen year old brother who had run away about a year prior had chosen to legally remove himself from our family. This was something he could do without consulting us given the laws in Texas.

Before I even got off the phone, I was already in tears. Questions were racing through my mind.

Why would God allow this?

My parents followed God’s call to open up our home to this young man, to adopt him, to make him part of our family and bestow upon him all the blessings of parents that love him dearly.

Then he practically spat in their faces and took off.

For a year I prayed and prayed and prayed and now God allowed him to leave our family. No hope of reconciliation and restoration. No hope of a family reunion down the line where broken things are restored.

Instead, my parents lost a son and I lost a brother.

I made my way back to my door, got through it, and then collapsed to the ground. I sat there crying right in my doorway. Jamie and Matt came running and I barely eked out the words “Trevor left our family”.

For what felt like an eternity, I sobbed as Matt and Jamie sat on the floor next to me, consoling me. They didn’t speak. All you could hear were my cries.

In the book of Job, we see Job get blasted with suffering in the first two chapters. By the latter half of chapter two, Job is alone in his suffering, his own wife leaving him to suffer in silence.

When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. – Job 2:11-13 

We learned from the first chapter of Job that Job was a man of renown in the region where he lived (1:3). Word of his suffering spread, and three of his friends from the surrounding area came and sought to encourage him.

They noticed how much pain he was in, joined in his pain, mourned with him, and said nothing to him for a week.

These three will later show their foolishness to us, but here at the onset they teach us a considerable amount about how to respond to the suffering of a friend.

The main truth is this.

Keep your mouth shut.

Suffering as a Christian is a reality. It is a promise straight from the lips of our Savior. It is to be expected. That being said, what a Christian or non-Christian for that matter needs to know in the midst of their suffering is that you are for them and that you are with them.

I’m sure many of us have stories where we sought to open up about a difficulty, a tragedy in our lives, only to be told right off the bat by good-hearted, well-meaning Christians that God has a purpose for our pain.

There are a plethora of Scriptures that teach that. We saw just in our last blog that God uses good and bad for our benefit, and that we should be willing to accept both from Him (Receiving Bad From God). But, in the throes of intense suffering, the best thing that you can do is keep your mouth shut. Cry with them. Mourn with them. Sit with them. Listen to them rant, listen to them cry out about God and against him. As time progresses, then you can share the beautiful truths of Scripture. But you do the faith a disservice when you come in with cookie-cutter statements.

Matt and Jamie sat and mourned with me.

They let me get angry, get sad, wrestle with God.

They never brought up anything. They simply listened.

Imagine if I had come through the door of my apartment, collapsed on the ground, only for Matt and Jamie to say “Don’t cry, God’s got a plan”. That would have been the most detrimental thing they could have done in that moment.

Look at this verse.

Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on a wound, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart. – Proverbs 25:20 

I’m sure we all have stories of when someone spoke too soon instead of listening to us in our pain. I have been on both sides. I have been spoken to instead of listened to, but I’ve also opened my stupid mouth in the midst of the suffering of others. Brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s not be the type of people who take away coats on cold days. Let’s not be people who, even in a church setting like Sunday School, offer up trite and flippant sayings from Scripture instead of letting people have a place to suffer and yet feel loved.

It breaks my heart to acknowledge that many have left church, or even given up on following Jesus, because you and I open our mouths instead of keeping them shut.

Christian, be quiet.

Let us show our communities that our churches are places where they can suffer, where they can be raw about their doubts and angers, their fears and anxieties, their wrestling with God. If our churches aren’t a safe place for people to wrestle with God in suffering, we will continue to see our churches die out as the next generation finds more loving people outside the church than inside it.

Again, I’m not accusing anyone of malicious ill will.

I’m rather reminding us that we all struggle, we all wrestle, we all fight, we all doubt, we all lose hope in the midst of suffering. If you have had a suffering-free life, you’re likely a kid or the luckiest person alive. So why do we not allow people to suffer? Why don’t we allow them the place and space to get to the point where they, like Job, can say “My Redeemer lives”.

Sometimes that is hard to say right off the bat.

For me, it has taken years to get to the point where I can reflect on Trevor’s story and have hope. Some days it still wanes.

Let’s suffer together.

Christian, be quiet.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

The Voice Of God

There are seasons of my life in which I feel like God is not speaking to me. I pray, read, study, go to church, and there’s just something missing. He’ll ‘go quiet’ so to speak for a time, but then He’ll open up my ears to the ways that He was speaking to me all along. These seasons of quiet have the potential to strengthen my faith if I let them. Or I can allow myself to go the opposite way and depart from Christ in the quiet seasons.

There was a season in the history of God’s people where they faced this choice. The prophets had grown quiet, the Roman Empire was rising and making all peoples subjugated to its will, including the Jews. No genuine prophet had risen up for centuries, and yet the prophets of old had told of a Messiah that would come and make all things new. In a sense, the Lord hadn’t spoken for centuries.

I can’t imagine what it was like to be in the people of God in that time. It would have been tempting to lose hope, to jump on the bandwagon when any number of men claimed to be the promised Messiah. In this moment however, no one was expecting an infant babe in a manger. Man, this Christmas season so far has been great. I’ve had the opportunity to stop and reflect and remember what makes the Christmas story so magnificent. There’s an aspect of the Christmas story I pray that we all remember, one that sometimes gets lost on me. And to get this aspect of the story, look with me at the book of Hebrews.

The book of Hebrews is an ongoing reminder that this infant babe we remember during the Christmas season is more marvelous and more amazing than anything that this world has to offer. Page after page, chapter after chapter extols the rich wonders of His majesty. If you have a hard time glimpsing the greatness of our gracious King, then take a gander at the book of Hebrews. Better_background slide

What I want us to think about comes from the opening passage of this book. I’m not intending to unpack this whole passage in this post, I just want us to have our minds and hearts formed by one part of it. Read with me Hebrews 1:1-4.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. – Hebrews 1:1-4 

The truth I want us to grasp is found in the first two verses, but this whole chunk of Scripture is too great to not share.

Long ago, God spoke to His people via the prophets. Now he speaks to us by the Son.

Those two sentences should floor us.

But they don’t.

We are a disenchanted people, things don’t inspire awe in us because we have the answer or supposed answer for every phenomenon whether it be natural or manmade.

There are great and epic stories in our culture that get such an enchanted and wondrous response from us. For me it’s This Is Us and the new Star Wars. I’m reading tweets and news articles, trying to find out all I can about these two stories. The trailer for the new Star Wars movie drew me into wonder. Enchantment. Amazement.

Now that’s probably a lame reality of my life, but it’s also a convicting one.

There is a story that is far greater, far more worthy of our excitement, anticipation, and proclamation. The story of Jesus.

Seriously.

Pause with me. Think.

 

The people of God were used to having a conduit so to speak to God, they had men and women of renown who spoke on behalf of God as prophets. Then, silence. Now Jesus steps onto the scene and throughout the entire narrative of His life we come to realize that God now speaks to us through this personal and intimate relationship made available to us through the Resurrected Son.

Here are three quick ways to apply this wonderful gift to our lives this Christmas season:

1. Read the Gospels. God speaks to us now via His Son. Look at the Biblical accounts of Jesus. See the way that he interacts with sinners, religious leaders, His disciples. Hear the teachings of the Kingdom. Immerse yourself in the life of Jesus. Don’t let this amazing gift go to waste.

2. Prayer. Man, now I’m going the cliche Sunday School route. But it’s true. God speaks to us via His Son. The Son whom Hebrews tells us is still on the throne of glory. The Son who holds the cosmos together. He is willing and able to commune with you through prayer.

3. Be Still. I am horrendous at meditation. Literally the worst. My mind goes crazy running all over the place. But this Christmas season, stop. This Christmas season, be still. Be quiet. Don’t talk. Be still and silent. Imagine the 400 years of silence. Feel the anticipation well up inside of you. Then when you’ve lost your ability to stay still, go out and proclaim the wondrous news we have that Jesus is alive and He is the voice of God.

Jesus is the better prophet.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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The Glow Of God’s Grace

The glow of my smart phone lights up my face as I lay in bed, I even drop it on my chest a few times before finally falling asleep; but not without my phone being within arms reach. I wake up in the middle of the night and reach over and grab it, scrolling through social media as if people have said anything important ever or at all in the wee hours of the morning. I wake up and grab it again checking to see if Jamie has texted me or if I have any pertinent e-mails. And so it goes evening after evening. I wonder if you struggle with the same things?

Yet it has not always been this way. In my life before a phone bedtime was one of the best times for me and for my relationship with God. I would lay in bed and read, feeling watched over by the Lord of all. I would be at peace with Him and would rest in His presence. I wouldn’t be reading a book about theology or doctrine or singing praises to Him but in those quiet evening moments I was worshiping Him. My peace and stillness and quietness was an act of worship. Sure I thought about things other than Him. Sure I wasn’t actively listening. But I had allowed myself to be free of distractions for just a few moments to close the day and to start the day.

It’s the close of the year and as I’ve thought about 2016 I realize that while God has changed a whole lot about my life (oh how glorious his mercies are), there are some things I haven’t matured in as much as I would have hoped. Part of me wonders if that is because I haven’t given Him my undivided and quiet attention as I once did.

I was reading the Psalms earlier this week and it amped up my thought process on the subject.

Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. – Psalm 4:4

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my request before you and wait expectantly. – Psalm 5:3

The spiritual discipline of solitude and silence is one that I’m pretty atrocious at. Yet it is seen throughout the Scriptures and even modeled by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Here we have David encouraging the people of God to search their hearts and be silent when in their beds. We then have David testify to the reality that in the mornings he calls out to the Lord and lays his requests before Him. What a way to end the day and begin the day.

How much of my spiritual growth do I shortchange because I fail to sit in silence before the Lord of my life? How can I refer to Him as Lord of my life if I don’t heed His Word and instruction and seek to rest in His fully accomplished work?

The glow of my smart phone is distracting me from the glow of God’s grace.

Internet Addiction

Right thinking leads to right actions. Yet there are snippets of my life where I’m not acting in line with God’s grace because I’m not operating in the mindset that coincides with God’s grace. And these seasons of not operating in the mindset that coincides with God’s grace usually are lengthened because I don’t take the time to search my heart and be silent. I don’t take the time to lay my requests before the Lord in the mornings. And I’m thus not expecting to see God show up in my life that day.

What about you? Do you practice times of solitude and quietness before the Lord? Do you have moments set aside where you just simply be? Do you give yourself moments where your mind is at peace and you trust the Lord in the midst of deadlines and responsibilities? Or is your mind constantly running and distracted by the things of earth.

This is definitely not the intention of the hymn Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, but a verse in this song took on a brand new implication or thought in my mind.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

The glow of my smart phone pales in comparison to the glow of God’s grace.

To you this may seem cliche and over-thinking my life, but to me I miss those moments of bedtime peace with the Lord of all.

So tonight I’m going to leave my phone in the kitchen. Tonight I’m going to meditate on and be silent in the light of God’s grace.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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